Did you pass a Cherokee Indian Chief on your way to the office?

6″ x 8″ watercolor, $60 ($10 donated to the Wolakota Foundation).

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Downtown and surrounded by office buildings; not a setting where you would expect to see a Chief Cherokee Indian fully outfitted in authentic clothing. Today was an exception. This week marks the Center for Interfaith Relation’s 11th annual Festival of Faiths. One of the many events scheduled for the festival was the tree planting ceremony I attended this morning, summarized in the Festival of Faith’s program as, “Many of the sacred mounds of the Cherokee in the area that is now Louisville were destroyed during building construction. Several of these sites are downtown. Chief Arvol Looking Horse and the local Cherokee and Iroquois communities will lead the tree planting in honor of Native People.”

Chief Arvol Looking Horse is quite the recognized leader as founder of the Wolakota Foundation, which has established spiritually grounded “programs for sustaining traditional teachings of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Nation as well as researching and demonstrating practices for sustainable, ecologically-balanced living.”

An eclectic mix of participants (Buddhists monks to businessmen) gathered in a circle to watch the ceremony, which closed by the circle folding in on itself as one person initiate a chain by turning to the left and shaking the hand of each person down the line. A great way to start any morning.

Highlights from the “Engaging Our World” conference

Whatever your social justice concern, you would have found educated voices speaking about it at the “Engaging Our World” conference. Paul Loeb, who researches and writes about citizen responsibility and empowerment, was a key guest speaker. Other participants included many faculty members at the University of Louisville, representatives from various nonprofits, and religious/spiritual leaders.

To squeeze in as much as possible, I brought along a friend to divvy up the workshops. Between the two of us, we heard panelists field questions on environmental issues (panelists sketched above), watched an Oxfam video presentation, learned about the cleft palate corrective surgeries that Dr. Mark Chariker performs (glad my friend was assigned to that one),

listened to representatives from “Women in Transition” explain how they help women rise above poverty (speaker and conference attendee sketched above), attended a lecture on Humanity and Sustainability, and created models of “ideal communities” with ACTIVE Living that best enable active lifestyles that fight obesity.

The conference planning committee didn’t just stop at booking knowledgeable speakers and organizing wonderful workshops. Everything was covered, down to the biodegradable, sugarcane fiber cutlery used at lunch. My friend took her knife back to Columbus to test the claim that it would decompose in her compost pile.

I left the conference feeling a mix of shock at the reality and severity of numerous looming issues while also inspired by the enthusiasm generated by the participants. Although possibly skewed since I am devoting an increasing amount of time to these issues, it still seems that many of these topics are gaining momentum and beginning to move mountains.

Technorati tags: Oxfam, Engaging Our World, social justice, Paul Loeb, University of Louisville

Building green

11″ x 14″ watercolor
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Nestled in a historic neighborhood, established nearly 90 years ago, now stands a new home boasting energy bills that surely put its antique neighbors to shame. The owner commissioned me to paint her stunning new home built to green architectural standards (think solar panels, incorporating sustainable building materials, insulating correctly, energy efficient windows, etc.). Meeting people like this gives me the warm fuzzies by reassuring me that going green is gaining momentum. Soon the home owner will be taking it one step further by expanding her green reach into the yard with a completely edible landscape!

Do you wonder how much your household is contributing to the crisis that is our environmentally battered planet? I found a great website where you can find how your household compares to similar homes by providing basic info such as square footage, number of occupants, etc. as well as including information from previous utility bills. Once you get the results you are provided with recommendations on how to make improvements. If you’re not motivated to take action, maybe this will spark a little interest.

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